Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Is a Small Jail in Illinois Ground Zero for Taser Abuse?

Submitted by Ruth.

Just about an hour south of Chicago sits an obscure Kankakee County jail, the Jerome Combs Detention Center, a 668-bed facility that may just be one of the country's worst centers of Taser abuse. Inmates have filed at least 15 lawsuits over the past four years regarding Taser-related abuses — an unusual number, according to law enforcement experts. Some of them describe Taser use while inmates were already in restraint chairs or handcuffs. One described an inmate being Tased while weak from a hunger strike; another inmate described being "shock[ed] almost to death." Yet another inmate said he was Tased multiple times while officers taunted him with racial slurs.

According to an investigation by The Chicago Reporter and The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, at least 101 inmates in the jail were shocked by a Taser between mid-August 2007 and mid-December 2009, and a quarter of these incidents occurred while the inmates were restrained. Only 4 percent of the Taser firings were officially reported.

Since 2005, Chicago has been sending inmates from its own overcrowded Cook County Jail to be housed at the Jerome Combs facility, bringing in $1.4 million in revenue for Kankakee County. Several potentially unjustified Tasings occurred in response to these detainees protesting mistreatment at their new home.

The investigation, "Taser Timeout," was reported by Kelly Virella and appears in the May/June 2010 issue of The Chicago Reporter. It is available on-line here:

Press inquiries may be directed to Ruth Baldwin at The Nation Institute, at or 212-822-0266.

We hope you enjoy the read!



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